Summer Reading

Well, I am writing this the Wednesday before the holiday, since I am sure I will be too lazy to actually do it on the day and will have two days worth of work to return to on Tuesday. Well, “work” I should say. I am hardly digging ditches or performing brain surgery.

In any case, Memorial Day was, where I grew up, somewhat about going to the beach. Now, you would think that in Southern California that it would be mandatory, punishable by 30 days picking up trash by the 405 or giving tofu to the needy for those who don’t comply.

You would however be wrong.

In SoCal we have this thing called “May Grey” followed closely by “June Gloom” which means that the coast at least will be socked in most if not all of the day, and for that matter that can be the case as far inland as Hollywood. So no beach. I do have a pool in my building so I suppose I could go and sit by that and read instead of just composing pictures like I did. I did have a moment where I thought I’d stunt up a photo of me a la Faye Dunaway by the pool with books instead of copies of the papers and a bottle of iced tea instead of an Oscar, but that was just way too much work. Feel free to picture it in your head.

So beach usually means beach reading. That used to be some disposable paperback you would buy at a rack at the drugstore or in the gift shop of your motel (do they have those? Racks? Gift Shops? Motels?) usually by Jackie Collins or Harrold Robbins and something that you left on the beach or the plane for the next person who might need something to do.

So I have some beach reading all set up- new stuff and old.

Young Pammy

The first of the new is Life of the Party, the Bio of Pamela Harriman, who was an adjunct to Capote’s Swans. She was apparently quite the gal- marrying Winston Churchill’s son then poaching (according to his then-wife Slim {“Feud”} Keith) Leland Hayward before settling on being Mrs. W Averill Harriman. I am sure it will be juicy.

Castro Street: “Tales of” central

The second of the new is a bit of a throwback: the Armisted Maupin “Tales of the City” novel Mona of the Manor, which returns us to the 90’s re revisit original character Mona Ramsey, now happily married and equally happily estranged from her gay husband Titled Englishman Teddy Roughton. Teddy loathes life in the countryside playing lord of the Manor. preferring San Francisco while Mona loves the country life. And while they love each other, that love isn’t physical. I am looking forward to this in the way I would look forward to hearing from old friends, if with some trepidation since Maupin doesn’t shy away from the realities of life- just ask him about how much blow-back he got for killing off Jon Fielding..

Elsie de Wolfe’s The House in Good Taste is also in the pile- a 1913 era reference book with tips on gracious living. I love these books and not just for their throwback charm. There are also some pretty decent tips in there usually even if you have to get through some dated (but fun) stuff about choosing plovers eggs or the correct haircut to keep the bird dogs from getting gout or mange or Dutch Elm disease out on the moors.

Sidney Kirkpatrick’s A Cast of Killers is there as insurance- I’ve already read it but haven’t in a long time. It’s a fascinating true story of director King Vidor (“The Fountainhead”, “Duel in the Sun”) who, in the 60’s delved into the murder of director William Desmond Taylor in 1922 and the various cover-ups the studios and other interested parties indulged in to keep the various secrets of those involved. It’s fascinating reading with a sad ending that shows Taylor wasn’t the only victim in the case.

Is that supposed to be Lee Remick?

Then as classic beach reading I have a copy of Arthur Hailey’s Wheels at the ready. A thinly disguised story of either John DeLorean at GM or Lee Iacocca at Ford (both claimed it) although the actual car manufacturer seems more like plucky American Motors, it has soap and sex and motor oil and was a best-seller in the early 70’s. I’ve only seen the mini-series with Lee Remick and Rock Hudson so I am looking forward to seeing what differences there are, and just how much cheap sex the miniseries left out.

Oh, and one nice thing- I got a thank you package from KCRW for donating my old car. A nice tote and a mug. Perfect for toting all the reading, sunblock and iced tea.

So what are you planning on reading over the summer? I’m sure I’m going to need more than these so any tips would be appreciated. Let me know in the comments.

Images: my iPhone, Amazon, and Wikimedia Commons 

  • Absolutely love this post! You captured the SoCal vibes perfectly—”May Grey” and “June Gloom” are so real. Sometimes, chilling by the pool with a good book is the way to go. Your reading list sounds fantastic, especially the Pamela Harriman bio and Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City.” Congrats on the thank you package from KCRW! For my summer reads, I’m diving into “The Night Circus” and “Murder on the Orient Express.”

  • Musette says:

    Fun factoid here: right after my first divorce (or during?? I forget) I fell madly in love with Leland Hayward’s son, Bill, and did everything in my power to become Mrs William Hayward (no. 4) – alas (or was it?) my efforts were destroyed when he had a motorcycle accident that resulted in serious brain damage and he ended up killing himself.

    Okay – maybe not such a ‘fun’ factoid.

    However – it was fun to watch my new, young male gyno’s face when it came up (we were trying to ‘connect’ since our first gyno encounter didn’t go so well)… Bless His HORT! he (all 37 years of him) looked all smugly mansplainy to me as he said ‘ and you thought you could change him (re his 3 earlier marriages) and his utter shock when I replied ‘oh, no. I knew he was batshit crazy and our life together would be brutal, nasty and quite short – I just wanted him’


  • carole says:

    Tom, I remember reading an exerpt of the Pam Harriman book in Vanity Fair in the early 90’s. It’s an excellent bio, and I hope you’ll share your thoughts once you’ve read them. I wonder what fragrance she wore? She behaved so badly, and valued money over everything. I thought it was a great read-I’ll probably read it again.
    I’m reading Allan Hollinghurts’s The Sparsholt affair, and it’s riveting. Loved his Line of Beauty, and cannot remember what the heck The Stranger’s Child was about.

    • Tom says:

      Oooh- you’ve really whetted my appetite for the Harriman book. I will get to it soon! I never read Hollinghurt. I will have to rectify that.

  • alityke says:

    Nice line up there. I’ve been reading biographies or Truman Capote & biographical novels

    • Tom says:

      Which bio of Capote? I read that Capote’s Women recently which was the basis for Feud. Better than the miniseries.

      • alityke says:

        Capote’s Women was one I read on holiday last month. I’ve got Deliberate Cruelty by Roseanne Montillo, The Best of Friends about Lee Bouvier Radizwill & Capote, Swan Song by Kellogg Greenberg-Jephcott & The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

  • March says:

    This was HILARIOUS. And what a great set of books! Hardly the low level of trash that it could be … I read “Haywire” eons ago by Brooke Hayward (Leland’s daughter?) and Pam Harriman sounds like a piece of work… the other books sound fabulous as well! I love reading, and books. I just finished a novel about the making of the first OED (what a dull read of an interesting topic), am working through Hernan Diaz’ Trust (jury out on that one), and re-reading some Thomas Perry thrillers just for funsies.

    • Tom says:

      I read Haywire an eon ago as well. I actually don’t remember much. I do have to admit that I love the Kindle- I know it’s heresy. But what converted me was about 15 years ago when I had an awful flu and just wanted to read Mapp and Lucia and I only have the omnibus which has all 6 books and weighs about thirty pounds. Or so it seemed when balanced on my congested chest.

      • March says:

        Bahaha! I have my own set of Mapp & Lucia in paperback … I’m a convert as well to reading on my laptop or iPad because I can get something fresh to read from the library at 11pm on a Sunday night if I want to. It’s also great if I’m traveling / waiting at the doctor’s, I’ve always got a couple of unread books on the iPad.

        • Tom says:

          I forgot about that! Our local libraries lend electronic books. You download it and it disappears on the due date. Pretty nifty IMHO.

  • Portia says:

    Tom! what a stellar lineup of books.
    Currently I’m plowing through a fantasy trilogy by a New Zealand author-ess Juliet Marillier, Blackthorn & Grim. It’s a real set of page turners.
    Portia x

    • Tom says:

      Oooh, I will have to look for those..

    • AnnieA says:

      Yay for Libby – I am reading the first title now. Haven’t read a lot in the fantasy genre, but this winter I read Travis Baldree’s Legends and lattes and really enjoyed it.

  • Dina C. says:

    Well, that looks like a fine line-up of books to keep you going for a while. My thing is classic mystery authors. I’ve been reading and rereading all my favorites, as well as adding new ones to the list. The oldies: Agatha Christie, Patricia Wentworth, Josephine Tey Georgette Heyer, Lindsey Davis, P D James, Ngaio Marsh, Louise Penny, many others. The newbies: Robert Thorogood, Rev. Richard Coles, Anna Lee Huber, Jacqueline Winspear, Barbara Allen, Vivien Chien, and Anthony Horowitz. Happy reading!

  • cinnamon says:

    Summer readings. A man after my own heart. I love visiting those grand old houses but haven’t looked at any books. We have quite a few nearby that have been turned into visitor centres, with the gardens open as well as the houses, plus cafes. A fun day out. Books … I’m currently on the second of Ajay Chowdhury’s cook/detective series set between the Asian subcontinent and London. I’m looking forward to Daniel Silva’s latest Gabriel Allon (spy/art restorer) which I think drops in July. At some point in the next month Craig Johnson’s next Walt Longmire book should drop. Sadly, the next Robert Crais Cole and Pike book is now delayed until January 2025 (detective plus interesting sidekick/friend set in LA).